Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"

See other formats


HISTORY   AND    HUMAN    RELATIONS

freeze in our minds and become almost as hard and
inescapable as material necessity.    Our intellectual devel-
opment and the progress of civilisation may be hindered
perhaps by some ideas that have become obsessions
in our minds.   But supposing we go to the study of
history for the sake of ideas themselves, and we prize
these most; supposing our real end and aim in the study
of history is the examination of the story and fate and
vicissitudes  of ideas;   supposing  the  thing we are
concerned with is just the history of ideas, still these
things do not remain disembodied when the historian
begins to handle them; we shall soon find that we are
not studying the pure logical development of ideas so
to speak in the air;  there is no form of history more
fallacious than that which is obtained by the merely
literary study of ideas.   It is necessary to bring all these
things down to earth and see what factors were con-
ditioning and deflecting the movements of the human
mind itself.   I should be prepared to listen to the case
that if one goes  deep  enough in one's  analysis of
historical change or far enough back in one's pursuit
of the whole question into the past, one may be brought
up against some source of specially significant change
due to an alteration i-i an economic conditioning factor.
Even so, we must never forget our original thesis—
that it is men who have minds;   and the minds (as
Dickens shows so remarkably in the case of some of his
minor characters)1 may be limited in specific ways and
yet  may   operate  with   extraordinary   vividness and
ingenuity within whatever limiting terms have been set
for them.   We must never forget what the human mind

76